SATs for science at 11 to be dropped, Balls tells MPs

May 8, 2009 at 1:25 pm Leave a comment

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families has announced changes to the testing and assessment system in England.

Standard assessment tests (SATs) for 11-year-olds in science will be dropped and those in English and Maths may be moved from May to June to improve the transition to secondary school.

Key Stage 2 science tests for 11-year-olds will be replaced with teacher assessment and national sample testing from 2010 and there are plans for ‘single-grade’ School Report Card from 2011 to replace ‘old-style’ league tables.

Final, full proposals on the School Report Card – including options about whether or not the card should include a single overall grade or rating for each school – will be published in the forthcoming White Paper to be published shortly.

“Over the past 10 years, thanks to increased investment and great teaching, there has been a significant rise in standards in our primary and secondary schools,” Ed Balls told MPs.

“Over 100,000 more children now leave primary school at 11 secure in English and maths than a decade ago and almost half of young people now achieve five good GCSEs including English and maths – compared to just over a third in 1997.

“Testing and assessment have played a vital role in bringing about these improvements – and they continue to do so.

“But the system is not set in stone.”

Mr Balls said the DCFS would “move forward with our stage not age test pilots and trial, replacing the standard key stage 2 tests with single-level tests in maths for pilot schools next year.

“In addition, because the expert group rightly stresses that the importance of science will only grow, I intend to ensure that there is externally validated accountability for national standards in science by introducing a new sample test at key stage 2—going beyond the expert group’s recommendations.

“I am pleased that the Royal Society, the Science Community Representing Education—SCORE—the Science Learning Centres, the Association for Science Education, the Wellcome Trust and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation have all agreed to work with us to design that national sample test and to strengthen the teaching and assessment of science in our primary schools.”

Mr Balls rejected calls for league tables to be scrapped.

“Others have called for us to drop key stage 2 tests entirely, but the expert group is clear that to drop them entirely would be the wrong thing to do,” he said.

“Furthermore, independent surveys of parents show that the clear majority value the information that the tests provide.

“I know that head teachers take their statutory responsibilities and position as role models to young people extremely seriously, and I know that they want nothing less than the best for the children in their schools.”

Michael Gove, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said the announcement of changes “follows the fiasco of last year’s standard assessment tests—SATs—when the Government presided over a comprehensive shambles.

“It was both an administrative disaster, for which some have paid the price, and a challenge to all of us to think about how we can improve the testing and assessment regime in our schools.

“The Secretary of State was right to say that the regime that he inherited should not be set in stone, but, even as we constantly strive to improve how we assess our children, does he not agree that we should also ensure that the assessment process is built on certain enduring principles?”

Mr Gove said parents want “more rigour and better information” about their children’s schools.

“That is why we welcome the principle of a report card that outlines in greater detail how schools are performing, so that parents have a more rounded picture of achievement.

“However, if it is right for there to be more information overall, how can it be right to have less information on how children are doing in science?

“If it is also right to ensure that we better reflect how children are stretched and challenged and how the less able are helped to improve in primary school, should that not apply to GCSE league tables as well?

“Should we not move away from the current focus on the C/D borderline so that we have a measure of testing how schools perform that rewards those that stretch the most able and also those that encourage less able children to do even better?

“I hope that the Secretary of State will be open-minded about such a change.”

Click here to read the statement on SATs.

The Expert Group’s report and Government response is published online here.


Entry filed under: Commons. Tags: , , , .

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